It is part of former government pleader's suggestions to tiger conservation authority

A former government pleader at the High Court of Kerala has suggested to the National Tiger Conservation Authority that the Makaravilakku ceremony at Ponnambalamedu in Sabarimala be televised to make the proceedings more transparent. Devotees could view the ritual more conveniently if it were telecast and this could prevent the recurrence of stampedes like that of January 2011 at Pulmedu in which 102 people died, he said.

This was one of the few suggestions the advocate, who is a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, made in a letter to the tiger conservation authority, which has the mandate to monitor developmental activities on Periyar tiger reserve and suggest corrective measures.

The advocate said kings in India’s ancient city states would induce so-called unnatural manifestations to collect money for emergencies from gullible subjects. But carrying out such practices in a democratic country with the help of police and other officials was not fair or transparent.

When asked about telecasting the ritual, TDB president M.P. Govindan Nair, who took charge earlier this month, said the board would hold discussions in the coming days.

The senior advocate also alleged that the developmental activities at Sabarimala were being carried out in a haphazard manner. He called for the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, to strictly follow the Sabarimala master plan approved in 2007 to protect the environment and the devotees to the temple.

The government pleader, in his letter, stressed the need to prioritise certain points of the Sabarimala Master Plan to ensure proper development of the Sabarimala region.

The master plan envisaged the need to set up a base camp at Nilakkal to decongest areas around the temple. Currently, space has been cleared at Nilakkal to park large buses that bring devotees to the temple from different States. Toilets and resting facilities have also been set up here. However, little else has been done to develop the area as per the plan. The advocate said developing the base camp first would go a long way in controlling the flow of people and ensuring that another stampede did not take place at the temple. It will limit the pollution to the base camp rather than dirtying the trekking path.

Mr. Nair said implementation of the plan was delayed as the TDB did not have enough funds to carry out all the works. “Our current priority is to ensure that the pilgrimage season passes off peacefully. After the Makaravilakku festival, we will collect more funds for the development works,” he said.

An official of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, under which the Sabarimala temple is located, alleged that the TDB focused on development works only when the pilgrimage season neared. “The temple is closed for devotees for almost nine months of the year. But the pace of the work picks up only when the season begins,” he said.

The advocate had also mentioned in his letter that the construction of side walls along the trekking path to the temple may hamper the movement of wild animals in the area. It may also increase casualties in case of a stampede, he said.

Mr. Nair, however, dismissed these claims. Officials of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the TDB had visited the region and discussed the issue of the side wall earlier this month. The side wall has been constructed in some parts of the trekking path. An official of the tiger reserve said this would confine the smaller animals in the forest to one side. He said the court had ordered that any barricades erected along the path be movable to aid movement of wildlife.

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